The 20th Century gave us a deeper understanding of the relativity of perception in matters scientific as well as cultural. We saw further into outer space as well as further into psychological inner space and the realms of cognition. And as our perception has been expanded, so has our sense of the unknown. Those composers who have made music which explores space and perception have pointed us toward realms of extraordinary possibility.
It’s a wonderful reminder that the parameters of music should never be taken for granted. Music has been largely a linear art, but many composers in the past few decades have given us variations on work which functions as timespace, where sequence becomes elastic. Indeed, the relationship between time and space, and the concept of the two things as something more integrated, is a central mystery of contemporary explorations of cosmology.
The late scientist and philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller developed a theory of an “omnidirectional halo” of non-linear wave and event energy. John Cage was among those composers influenced by Fuller’s thinking, and for me, it is Cage’s late work which begins to scratch the surface of the possibilities implied by Fuller. In Ocean, a work Cage conceived but did not finish (musical realization was completed by Andrew Culver), the music is spatial on both the antiphonal and temporal fronts: a 112-player orchestra surrounds the audience (which surrounds the dance), and all musicians proceed independently through overlapping and layered timespaces.
In any case, expanding the spatial dimension of music as Henry Brant has done, is a powerful step towards expanding our perception of music. The possibilities inherent in new technologies, and in the spirit and imagination which might arise from transformed conceptions, are rich indeed. I suspect that in the future, one aspect of space composers will explore more deeply is the space within sounds, and the realm of fractal structure. But what do you think is next? Where do you think music is going?